Tag Archives: suffering

Leading from between a Hard Place and a Rock

11 Feb

Jesus was overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death, and still, while He was overwhelmed, He led His disciples, showing us what sacrificial leadership is.  Mark 14:34

SCRIPTURE

Even though His betrayer was in the room with Him, Jesus led His followers through the Passover meal, reading Scripture within the ritual.  While filled with dread for what is coming, The Word continued to teach His disciples, explaining the Scriptures they knew well in view of their present circumstance.

WORSHIP

Although He knew that all of them would fall away, He led them in a song of praise to God after the meal.  His concern was not that His worship environment met His needs, or that He was surrounded by others totally committed to the Father who inspired Him to worship.  He worshiped God because His Father was the same in His present circumstance as He had been when He delivered Israel out of Egypt and protected every firstborn in homes that had the Passover lamb’s blood smeared on the top and sides of the doorway as the angel of death passed over.

PRAYER

In Gethsemane Jesus prayed as no one has ever prayed.  Deep pleading and total surrender collided, preparing the way for the redemption of the world.  He understood the great suffering that would begin with His arrest, which was moments away, and continue until the rock was rolled back from the tomb on the first day of the week.  And His disciples were there to witness His prayer– until they fell asleep.  Not once or twice, but three times.  Why Jesus continued to wake them up is not recorded.  Was He looking for support from His friends?  Was He checking on them to make sure they understood how to truly pray?  Did He want to make sure they did not miss this ultimate lesson in prayer?

SACRIFICIAL LEADERSHIP

Knowing He was headed toward the cross and that everyone, including His Father, would abandon and turn away from Him, Jesus continued to lead His disciples to the Father.  They listened as He recited Scripture.  They sang praises to God with Him.  And they stayed awake long enough to hear Him wrestle in prayer.

Heart-check for Sunday:

Am I running away from God or toward Him? (There is no other direction!)

When I am in hard places, do others see God through my anguish?  Do I pursue Him with more resolve, so that others are drawn to Him instead of feeling sorry for me?

Christ is our example.  Even in our struggles, especially in the hard times, our leadership thunders through rhetoric into the hearts of those entrusted to us.  Hardship is laced with teachable moments if we stand firm in our relationship with God and run to Him.  Everyone is watching.  Some will follow.

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Illustration courtesy of Jonathan David Design

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Reality Check

28 Jan

We prayed for one of our own.  For anointing, power, and fortitude.  Because he was ordained a few days before.

My call to ministry came with an onslaught of emotion – “Really?  God you want me?”  “There is NO way I can do this!”  “I know you are with me – You and me… we’re gonna change the world!”  “How can this be????”

From excitement to sheer terror in tenths of a second!  But gradually, an under-current of adventure and a thrill of rising to the challenge took over, and I was off.  Off to take on this thing called Ministry, called and empowered by the Ruler of the Universe.

Days later, Reality grabbed my feet and pulled me back to earth with arms clothed in petty misunderstanding.  And it wasn’t long before character assassination and my own sin tripped me up and threw me down the stairs into discouragement and frustration.

This week, as we prayed for our friend, my mind ping-ponged between my call to those of Mary and Paul (Saul).  Before Reality had a chance to strike at them, God called him out.

An angel told Mary that she would be the mother of Messiah.  She was afraid (Luke 1:29-30), confused (v34), willing (v38), excited (v39), humbled, enraptured with her God (vs46-56), introspective (Lk 2:19), and filled with wonder (v33).   As she and Joseph dedicated their firstborn son at the temple in Jerusalem, God added Simeon’s prophecy to all that was in her heart: “This Child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed.  And a sword will pierce your own soul, too.” (vs34-35)  Up front Mary knows this call she has received is both glorious and grim.

Paul, too, looked into his future and quickly saw the dual aspect of God’s call (Acts 9:1-19).  Struck blind and led to the home of the disciple Ananias, to whom God had spoken and arranged to restore his sight, Paul knew right away he would have the privilege of being used mightily by God and of suffering for Jesus’ name (v16).  In fact, his preaching, just days after God called him, at the same time astonished the Christians and caused the Jews to conspire to kill him (vs20-23).

Then my imagination pictured Jesus– the ultimate example.  The most important and history-changing Call in the universe could not be fulfilled without the most horrific Suffering of all time.

And so we prayed for our compatriot, knowing that God will never leave him (or us) (Mt 28:20; Heb 13:5); that his and our adversity proves we are co-heirs with Christ (Rom 8:17); and that, although we will have trouble, Jesus has overcome the world and all its sufferings (Jn 16:33).

God does not call us for warm fuzzy feelings of significance; the more intense the call, the more intense the hardship and suffering.  So why run into it?  Why push into hurt, abuse, slander, back-stabbing, threats, and even the possibility of physical violence?  Why trade away a life focused on my comfort and 40-hour work weeks?

Simply, to hear two words: “Well done.”

Tomorrow is Sunday (again).  We may walk into a glorious day full of praise for God and what He is doing among the people we serve.  There may be hurt and pain in every conversation and around every turn in the halls.  Or a confusing combination of the two.  Neither changes God’s call.

God, help me to serve, sure of your call and in the power of Your Spirit.  And please use me to inspire those I lead to do the same.  For Your glory.

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